Statin therapy induces plaque regression and may stabilize atheromatous plaques. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a high-resolution in-vivo imaging modality that allows characterization of atherosclerotic plaques. We aimed to demonstrate the potential utility of OCT in evaluating coronary plaques in patients with or without statin therapy.
Patients undergoing cardiac catheterization were enrolled. We identified culprit lesions and performed intracoronary OCT imaging. Plaque lipid pool, fibrous cap thickness, and frequency of thin-cap fibroatheroma were evaluated using previously validated criteria. Macrophage density was determined from optical signals within fibrous caps. Presence of calcification, thrombosis, and rupture was assessed.
Forty-eight patients were included (26 on statins, 22 without statins). Baseline characteristics were similar apart from lipid profile. Patients on statin therapy had lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations (4.45±1.35 vs. 5.26±0.83 mmol/l, P=0.02; 2.23±0.78 vs. 3.26±0.62 mmol/l, P<0.001, respectively). Frequencies of lipid-rich plaque (69 vs. 82%), thin-cap fibroatheroma (31 vs. 50%), plaque calcification (15 vs. 5%) and thrombosis (15 vs. 32%), and fibrous cap macrophage density were comparable between statin and nonstatin groups (5.9 vs. 6.3%; all P=NS). Ruptured plaques were, however, significantly less frequent in patients on established statin therapy (8 vs. 36%; P=0.03) with a trend toward increased minimum fibrous cap thickness (78 vs. 49 μm; P=0.07).
We demonstrated the use of OCT in plaque characterization and found that patients on prior statin therapy have reduced incidence of ruptured plaques and a trend toward thicker fibrous caps. This suggests that statins may stabilize coronary plaques.